Flip Saunders
With a strong Minnesota pedigree, Flip Saunders may be under consideration for the Gophers vacancy. Reuters

The last time Minnesota athletic director Norwood Teague hired a basketball coach he was at Virginia Commonwealth, and plucked Shaka Smart out of thin air.

Teague’s decision to fire one of the most respected coaches in the nation in Tubby Smith stirred criticism, but his track record shows he has a knack for recognizing talented leaders.

The Gophers have gone 1-5 in the NCAA Tournament since 1999, and while Smith provided a stable, sanction-and-controversy free program, he had a 46-62 record in the Big Ten.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Amelia Rayno discussed several names on Wednesday, citing assistant athletic director Mike Ellis’s previous work with head coach churner organization Villa 7. Both Teague and Ellis began the Villa 7 program, which helped coaches from around the country develop relationships.

The program has nurtured many assistants that have gone on to coach in mid-major and above schools, as listed by CBS Sports.

Below are some candidates Teague may consider, and reported by the Star-Tribune.

Ben Howland

He has the best resume of any other college coach available. Howland has three Final Four appearances, the ability to recruit nationally, and has prepared players for the NBA. Like Smith, his firing confused many around the country. While at UCLA he also posted a 118-58 Pac-12 record.

Buzz Williams

Gruff and straight to the point, the Marquette coach has ties to Villa 7, and guided the Golden Eagles to their first Elite Eight berth since 2003 after trouncing Miami on Thursday. He knows the Midwest region, and at 40-years-old is relatively young. Williams has a 136-70 career record, and has taken Marquette to three consecutive Sweet 16s.

Andy Enfield

No one’s name has gotten more of a boost than Enfield, who has taken his No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast team further than any lower, darling seed has gone before. FGCU’s warm, beachside campus is probably an easier pitch than winters in Minnesota, but his run-and-gun offense could attract many recruits who want to show off their repertoire.

Chris Mack

Again a member of the Villa 7 branch, Mack took Xavier to two Sweet 16s in his first three seasons, and has a 90-44 overall record. He was also named the Atlantic-10 Coach of the Year in 2010-11season, and may have honed his recruiting skills as an assistant under now-Arizona coach Sean Miller.

Flip Saunders

The former Timberwolves coach is already beloved in Minnesota for taking the NBA team further than anyone else. The T-Wolves made the Western Conference Finals in 2004 under Saunders. And he’s also a Gopher alum and former assistant, under coach Jim Dutcher, as reported by the Pioneer Press. Saunders three-year stint with the maligned Washington Wizards may smudge his credentials, but his overall record and links to the program could make him an attractive candidate.